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Sesame-Crusted Tuna on Arugula Salad

Much as I love to serve fish for dinner, I return to my weeks-old whining about the heat. How are we expected to endure an hour of 400-degree air in the kitchen, followed by several hours of still-not-cool temperatures, just to get a piece of protein on the table? We’re not, is the answer. We make a salad — any salad will do, but there are lots of nice ones here — and call it a night. But we both know that gets old. At a certain point, we start craving something more.

Here, then, is an entree that won’t blow the gasket on the delicate balance between the blazing outdoors and the “little engine that could” of an air conditioning system. It requires no braise, no long boil, but a quick flash-sear on a hot stovetop, followed by a rest in the fridge, while you set the table, stick your head in the freezer for a moment, and suck on an ice cube hoping for that sweet, sweet redemption known as fall.

We’re talking about tuna, rubbed with wasabi and coated with a mix of black and white sesame seeds, seared until it develops a crust to hide that jewel-pink interior. I’m being totally serious when I say that this tuna would be good on just about anything. I served it on a bed of arugula, dressed in rice wine vinegar, a little soy sauce, and sesame oil. Leftovers were cut into rice and piled onto sourdough toast. If only there’d been more.

To incorporate more of the tasty stuff that redeems this awful season, set the tuna (chunks, slices, whatever) in a salad of butter lettuce, corn, small cucumbers, and chopped red bell pepper. If you have some or none of those vegetables, just make a salad from whatever you’ve got. Put some of this tuna in, and you’ve got a simple, substantial summer lunch.

And with this, dear friends, I depart for a much-needed vacation. You’ll find me with my nose deep in a glass of zin — I’m going to San Francisco and wine country, and I couldn’t be more excited. Not to worry: I’ve got a couple posts in the pipeline, so even in my absence, NDP will still have the goods. I’ll be back in a couple weeks, with pictures and stories and, hopefully, some good wine in tow. Adieu!

Sesame-Crusted Tuna on Arugula Salad
inspired by a recipe from Jaden of Steamy Kitchen and a recipe from Epicurious
serves 6

2-3 lbs tuna, about 3 large pieces
1-2 tablespoons wasabi paste
1 cup sesame seeds (I like a mix of black and white)
salt and pepper
vegetable oil

1/2 lb arugula
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper

Put sesame seeds in wide, shallow bowl. Blot tuna with paper towel until dry. Season with salt and pepper on all sides, then rub wasabi paste evenly over top, bottom, and sides of tuna pieces. Place each piece of tuna in the bowl of sesame seeds, one at a time, and coat all sides with the seeds.

Heat heavy-bottomed pan (not non-stick) over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. When pan is very hot and oil shimmers, place tuna in pan. It will spatter — be careful! Cook tuna about 2 minutes on each side; white sesame seeds will have browned, but in testing one of the pieces with a sharp knife, you’ll see that it’s quite pink in the middle. You want it seared on the outside, rare within; please, don’t overdo tuna; it doesn’t like to stay on the heat too long. When it’s cooked properly, transfer tuna to plate or cutting board to rest.

Combine ingredients for dressing, and drizzle over arugula. Toss to incorporate. Transfer arugula to a serving platter, reserving remaining dressing.

Using a very sharp knife, slice tuna against the grain on a bias into 1/2-inch slices. Keeping the slices of each piece of tuna together, transfer onto arugula, then use a knife or spoon to nudge them into a fan or domino pattern. Drizzle reserved dressing over tuna, and serve immediately. (If not serving promptly, store in fridge until ready to serve.)

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  • chanie July 31, 2010,

    looks amazing, and might get me over my fear of cooking tuna.

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